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Fire alarmAs the weather gets colder and winter approaches, many homeowners are likely turning on their heat to make their homes more comfortable. However, it might be wise to have a professional test your gas line before you crank up the gas for the first time this season. As the resident of a Chicago suburb discovered recently, failing to do so could result in a house explosion.

On Monday, September 15, Tim Walkup turned on his heat for the first time before going to bed. Later, around 10 p.m., Walkup awoke to his house exploding around him, blowing out two walls and shattering his windows. The Eglin Fire Department was quickly called and Walkup was admitted to the intensive care unit of nearby Advocate Sherman Hospital. The fire required 10 area fire department companies to control, and caused almost $150,000 worth of damage to the home.

While Walkup was the only person injured in the explosion, many of his neighbors have reported that the explosion was forceful enough to be felt two houses away. Firefighters believe the fire was caused by a gas leak and are taking the opportunity to remind homeowners to have their furnaces checked by a professional before turning the system on for the winter.

Leak detection is a common procedure in many industries, including refrigeration, air conditioning, automotive manufacturing and food packaging. However, these leak tests typically occur before these systems and products are sold, and consumers are often unaware that they may require further testing after installation. Walkup, unfortunately, was one such customer: while his neighbors described his home maintenance as “meticulous,” officials suspect that his furnace may have suffered an issue which caused gas to accumulate. But some experts say he may have been lucky; if the explosion hadn’t occurred, his Walkup’s home could have filled with gas and caused him to become overcome by the fumes.

NICOR and ComEd have visited the scene to prevent any further gas leakages. However, neighbors are reportedly hesitant to approach the property due to the smell of natural gas that still lingers in the area. Walkup is still looking for his cat, who has not been seen since the explosion, although his two cocker spaniels have been recovered.

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